Scripture Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-39
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all. –Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
God’s restorative justice is a model for all to follow. God confronting Cain for his murder of his brother Abel, and restored him to being a productive member of society. Sent by God, Nathan castigated David for his involvement with Bathsheba which resulted in the murder of her husband and God restored David to being the leader he was meant to be. Isaiah and other prophets saw hope even in the midst of the destruction of Israel encouraging changed behavior while sharing God’s promise of a Savior yet to come. Jesus forgave and restored over and over again in his earthly ministry and ultimately offering his life as testimony to God’s restoring character. Paul recognized God’s great desire to make all things whole as he considers his fellow Jews and their future in God’s Kingdom.
We, humans, get caught up in the need to punish rather than restore. Yes, I can quote many scriptures that indicate God as a god of wrath. Perhaps it is from these scriptures we find the path to passing judgment and enforcing punishment on God’s other children. I do think we must all face the consequences of our own behavior. I can envision a time standing before God accounting for my own behavior. Jesus’ message is clear, we humans are not given the job of judging each other.
Humans must, however, create order to live together with all others. Such order requires protecting ones harmed from those doing the harm. Thus, civil judicial systems render judgments on crimes and other miscarriages of justice as defined by societies. Our people are our most valuable assets. Any person removed from society by imprisonment or execution is a net loss to society. Restoring people to productive contributing members is a net gain. People who are a danger to society may indeed need to be removed from society until restored, and some may never meet that test but not providing the resources for restoration is far more expensive in dollars but more importantly in the lost contributions each of the people involved might have made had they been restored.
Prayer: Lord, you have called us to initiate your Kingdom where all are whole, all are one and justice prevails. Grant us the knowledge and skills needed to restore those in our society who negatively impact such wholeness, oneness, and justice. Give us the wisdom and strength of character needed to bring restoration to our fragmented world. Amen.